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Who Should Avoid Supplements and Vitamins?

Supplements are not recommended for people with certain health conditions. Also, some supplements can interact with medications. Always talk with your doctor before adding vitamins or supplements to your diet. People who should avoid certain supplements include:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women, because some kinds of supplements can be dangerous to the baby.  A daily prenatal vitamin supplement is perfectly suited to pregnant and lactating women. 
  • Those taking certain medications, including heart medications, diuretics, blood thinners, aspirin, immune-suppressing medications, and steroid medications. All drugs have the potential to interact with dietary supplements, but interactions with these drugs can lead to potential problems that are particularly severe.
  • People who are going to have surgery, because some supplements may lead to bleeding and other dangerous complications.
  • Those being treated for or with a history of cancer, because some supplements could encourage the growth of cancer cells.

4 Tips for Smart Vitamin and Supplement Buyers

When you’re ready to purchase supplements, keep these tips in mind:

  • Look for evidence about the supplement’s effectiveness in published scientific studies. Search for such studies in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) PubMed database: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed.

You can also call the manufacturer and ask what published studies they have to substantiate their claims and what quality-control systems they have to ensure the ingredients listed on the supplement label are actually in the bottle.

  • If a product claims it will “cure” a disease, is “all-natural,” or has a “money-back guarantee,” be on guard. Any supplement that sounds too good to be true likely is. 
  • Choose brands labeled with the NSF International, US Pharmacopeia, or Consumer Lab seal. These insignia verify that the supplement actually contains the ingredients stated on the label, and that the product doesn’t contain any contaminants or potentially harmful ingredients.
  • Be wary of supplements produced outside the United States. Many are not regulated and some may contain toxic ingredients.

3 Tips for Storing Supplements and Vitamins

Supplements don’t last forever, and to maintain their strength they need a little care. After purchase:

  • Keep vitamins and supplements in a dark, cool, dry place (avoid bathrooms and other damp spots). 
  • Make sure all supplements are stored on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet, out of children’s reach. 
  • Some vitamins and supplements lose their viability when they sit on the shelf for too long. Do a regular check of your vitamins and supplements and throw out any that are past their expiration date.

Finally, always let your doctor know about any vitamins or supplements you plan on taking, especially if you have a chronic condition or are on regular medication. Not all vitamins and supplements are appropriate for everyone, and certain types of supplements can have potentially dangerous interactions with medications you are taking.

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